April 23, 2018
Every day in the United States we are witnessing a massive amount of substance use among the nation’s adolescent population. Substance abuse and addiction during the adolescent stage poses serious threats to healthy and neurological development of the brain. The alarming percentages of adolescents in the United States, who are admitting to substance use in recent years is cause for concern. There has been an assortment of damage done to the young developing brains of this generation. The so-called war on drugs has been waged for decades, yet teenagers continue to use and abuse a variety of substances, especially tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol to name a few. Drug use among adolescents and young adults has become widespread during the past two and a half decades, with many distinguishing the increases of enormous epidemic proportions.
Adolescence represents a sensitive stage of development as well as posing a high risk for contacting dangerous addictive behaviors. Alcohol and drug abuse (AOD) present the single most serious problem within this population, making them vulnerable for serious delinquent behavior and other learning deficiencies. Drug use is an increasing problem among teenagers attending this nations’ high schools today. Interestingly though, alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are not only adult problems, as these strongholds also affect a significant number of adolescents and young adults between the ages of 12 and 20, even though drinking under the age of 21 is illegal. (Bauman & Phongsavan, 1999, 183).
Most drug use begins in the pre-teen and teenage years; these years are most crucial in the development of a young person’s life. The average age when youth first try alcohol is 11 years for boys and 13 years for girls. The average age at which Americans begin drinking regularly is 15 years of age. During these years teenagers are faced with tasks like discovering their self-identity, which results in a sense of independency and searching for goals that would give their lives meaning. Drugs in this country are readily available therefore, adolescents are curious, vulnerable, and there is peer pressure that pushes them to experiment per say. The use of drugs by teenagers is the result of a combination of factors such as peer pressure, curiosity, and availability. (Zanis, 1999, 235).
One of the most important reasons of teenage drug usage is peer pressure. Peer pressure represents social influences that effect adolescents and it can have a positive or a negative effect, depending on the person’s social group. Our youth of today can follow the path of a good and straight and narrow or the other path of a dead-end street so to speak. Adolescents are greatly influenced by the people around them. Today’s schools as far as drugs are concerned is very common, and peer pressure usually is the reason for their usage. If the people in your social group use drugs there will be pressure to use also, a direct or indirect pressure from them in turn is believed to be that, how we view ourselves depends highly on how others view us. This is probably a good reason why peer pressure is such an imposing factor in adolescent drug use.
Abraham Maslow’s theory of human development suggests that basic needs are physiological and that the ultimate at the top of the pyramid model is self-actualization, which implies an unattached human being realizing its full potential and autonomy. Maslow’s theory of human development involves moving from basic needs (food and shelter) to social needs (love and esteem) to the highest needs on his hierarchy, which lead to self-actualization. According to Maslow’s theory, humans have several types of needs: physiological, safety/order, social, esteem and self-actualization. These needs are the basis of his human development theory and are met in social and family settings. (Maslow, 1970, 225-227). Unfortunately, with hormones raging, emotions tend to get the best of this group of individuals. Understanding the emotional development in early childhood through adulthood, leads us to understanding the importance of self-esteem. Through our experiences with the world, we as human beings, form concepts of causal relationships. We formulate opinions of ourselves based upon the collected experiences of what life brings. Some are fortunate enough to grow and develop in positive nurturing environments that foster most favorable beliefs systems. Others have a more difficult time remaining positive about themselves and life in general. Just as people form concepts regarding the behavior of inanimate objects, animals, and other human beings, they also form a concept of themselves, like what they are like and how they will react in various situations. The concept people form of themselves stated positively or negatively, is their self-esteem. (Hogan, 2000, 346). With effects like this it is guaranteed that family, friends and other individuals in the child’s life are going to experience a roller coaster of emotional changes when drug or alcohol abuse are present. Statistics, show that around 50 percent of American adolescents have used alcohol at least once while 20 percent admitted to, have been drunk. An early age of drinking onset is also associated with alcohol-related violence not only among persons under age 21 but among adults as well. Research studies indicate that substance abuse and alcohol indulgence among adolescents create severe impairment of cognitive functions. This in turn results in poor academic performance. Asides the general decline in academic performance, adolescent drinking and drug usage results in increased risk for committing serious crimes such as rape and theft. Alcohol inhibits the central nervous system, which severely impairs the judgment capacity of the person. (Bauman ; Phongsavan, 1999, 40-47). Consequently, intoxication with drugs or alcohol makes it difficult for the person to successfully overcome sexual advances or sexual violence. A recent survey of high school girls revealed that around 10 percent of them have been raped under the influence of alcohol. (Comerci ; Schwebel, 2000, 5-8). By altering the perceptions of the individual alcohol may also incite aggressive and criminal tendencies in the person. In Western society, the time of adolescence is the time when young people are confronted with the problem of self-definition and identity. These problems are exacerbated by biological changes, as well as social and intercultural differences. One of the most common generalized problems of adolescence is that teenagers are attempting to grapple with the problems of a social system that maintains a particularly ambiguous nature. Immediately, one must acknowledge that society itself contributes significantly to the way that adolescence is culturally transmitted… acknowledged that society was the main contributor to the way that most adolescents viewed themselves and the world. Furthermore, alcohol can have many physical effects on a person’s body; problems will continue to spread further as alcohol/drug abuse continues into adulthood. The physical problems do not necessarily need years to appear, damage can be done in a matter of minutes. Imagine, internal organs and systems can be severely damaged and even shut down when too much alcohol is consumed. The prolonged use of large amounts of alcohol without an adequate diet may cause serious liver damage, such as cirrhosis of the liver. It has been estimated that 10 percent of all alcoholic persons develop cirrhosis, a disease characterized by diffuse scarring of the liver. The central nervous system can also be permanently damaged causing a person to possibly blackout, hallucinate, and experience tremors. The withdrawal symptoms that a severe alcoholic can experience are sometimes compared to the same withdrawals as a heroin addict, yet people still do not consider alcohol to be a drug. Drinking during pregnancy can cause serious damage to the unborn child. An unborn child of an alcoholic may develop mental or physical retardation during pregnancy. Additionally, a child who has an alcoholic parent is much more likely to become an alcoholic themselves later in life. (Comerci & Schwebel, 2000, 63-64). It’s true that adolescents are a special needs population, needing special instruction and knowledge. Parents need to be there physically and emotionally for their children. Adolescence is a powerful time in one’s life with an array of chances to ruin a bright future.